Imagine training for two hours on a stony, pot-holed cinder track, starting in the darkness before dawn, running in plastic sandals, then off to school with no water, no breakfast, and no showers. That is the reality for many aspiring runners in Ethiopia. Thanks to the WukroDevon running project Berihu has running kit, a stop watch, and breakfast after training, he has also been given the opportunity to come and spend the summer in the UK and try some races and training here. He has already trained on three different all weather tracks; Ethiopia has one such track in the entire country. So far he has set a course record in winning the Hay Tor Heller, a course record for the north Devon relays’ Barnstaple course and the fastest time this year in the Bideford Handicap (despite adding a little extra due to navigational difficulties).
Berihu Tesfay comes from Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, he has just finished his second year at Aksum University as a Sports Science student. He is an excellent student and runner making the most of limited opportunities. Together with Cathy Newman he has set up a project to help runners from his home town of Wukro; they have received sponsorship from Cathy and Pete Newman, Ironbridge Runner and Exmouth Harriers. The project provides running kit for the athletes, three meals a week (after key training sessions) and expenses for races. The athletes also receive help for their education: so far the project has paid for notebooks, pens and lessons for the participants.
We hope to be able to take more shoes, running tights and spikes back to Ethiopia in September. Anyone wishing to help by donating money or running kit should contact Cathy or leave new or nearly new kit at Ironbridge Runner in Exeter. Cathy will pay the transportation costs but as this is high it is better to take kit that will last a long time rather than kit that is worn. Cathy says “Coming back from Ethiopia makes me increasingly more aware of how much we all have here, instead of plastic sandals and shared running kit most runners have a range of shoes and kit, stop watches, even iPods; there are more runners with a GPS here than runners with a basic stop watch in Ethiopia!”
Cathy Newman is working for the charity Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) as an English trainer in Ethiopia. She met Berihu at Aksum University when she interviewed him, following his gold medal win in the national universities championships, for the University magazine. Cathy worked for two years at Aksum University and will be returning to the south west of Ethiopia (near the south Sudan border) to take up a new post with the Regional Education Office in September. Her husband Pete is an ex-fire-fighter and a photographer. Photos of Ethiopia can be seen on his website.
The famine in the south of the country, Somalia and Kenya has made the news but in Ethiopia poor nutrition and malnutrition are never absent. Through helping a group of athletes we want to help more people and help them to help themselves that is why we encourage teamwork, mutual support and education.